An a cappella singer and bilateral implant recipient, Keri Reynolds understands how important music appreciation is for many cochlear implant recipients. Prepared with patience and positivity, Keri began the journey of relearning how to appreciate music. Keri is part of the MED-EL USA Team and shares with us her personal top tips for music appreciation with a cochlear implant.
“Music shaped my world and adds listening beauty. It is truly the stuff of life.”
As a cochlear implant user for over 10 years, some of the most frequently asked questions I receive from new and existing CI recipients are: “What about music?” “Does music sound like you remember?” “Does it sound good?” I suppose recipients ask these questions because music is so much a part of who we are. It seems that whenever music starts, we involuntarily respond with foot tapping, fingers snapping, and hands clapping. We react because we enjoy it and music moves us to join in.
So, can a cochlear implant provide access to sound so that you can enjoy music again, or for the first time? In my experience–YES! My musical experiences with my CI have once again brought joy, tears and laughter and have set my feet dancing.
Was my music appreciation immediate upon activation? Did it immediately sound like I remembered music to sound? Could I understand the words of the songs? Everyone’s responses to these and other questions are unique as it depends on the individual.
Nevertheless, I’d like to share my personal top 10 tips, suggestions, strategies and mental approaches that have helped me to appreciate music once again.
10: Attitude is everything. I’m a big believer in self-fulfilling prophecies. I have approached music appreciation with a positive expectation of success. If I start out expecting that the potential to enjoy music exists, I’m open to the possibility that I can enjoy it.
9: Be realistic with your expectations. While expecting positive outcomes, set your immediate expectations low. Don’t expect to hear and enjoy the full orchestral experience on the first day or even in the first week or month. Allow time for your brain to make sense of all the new information your cochlear implant is providing. Acknowledge and celebrate each step. While we all want the “giant leaps” forward, small steps are progress too! All steps forward count and help with motivation.
8: KISS: Keep it Simple Sweetheart! Start out with listening to acapella melodies—songs that are sung with no instruments in the background. Try to hear the single line of melody that is being sung.
7: Listen to individual instruments. What’s your favorite instrument? Guitar? Piano? Saxophone? Start there. Listen to that one instrument playing a single melody. This will help you adjust to the difference between a voice and a musical sound.
6: Listen to familiar music. If appropriate, listen to the music you liked before your hearing loss. This is a great place to start since your brain is already familiar with these sounds. The brain does a remarkable job of remembering and filling in the needed “spaces”, enabling continued enjoyment
5: Persevere! Don’t stop listening, even if the initial experience is unpleasant and all you hear is “noise”. Your brain is adjusting to the new experience and this takes time.
4: Take advantage of technology. Think about how to get the best signal possible to your CI processors, which might mean opting for an assistive listening device. One option is a Direct Audio Input (DAI) cable, enabling an iPad or other device to stream music directly to your device. Another option is using Bluetooth technology to access your playlist and stream wirelessly. It may also be helpful to use large headphones placed over your processors to deliver sound directly to your microphones.
3: Take up playing an instrument. Challenge yourself in the best way possible by relearning to play your favorite instrument, or, by trying out something entirely new. The end result is not only good for your musical “soul” but boosts your cognitive powers as well.
2: Listen to the new MED-EL Spotify music playlist. The MED-EL Spotify playlist has songs specifically selected by Johanna Pätzold, a CI user and music specialist, to enhance your listening experience and music appreciation. You can choose songs according to your favorite music genres, allowing you to experience new songs that are of a familiar style. Simple arrangements with limited special effects allow you to focus on the vocals and your music.
1: Practice makes perfect. Want to master a sport? Practice. Want to learn a new language? Practice. Want to learn how to play an instrument? Practice. Want to achieve music appreciation as a CI recipient? Practice. Expecting music enjoyment and music appreciation to just “happen” is unrealistic and sets you up for disappointment. If you want to love music again, invest some time. It will be worth it!
Have you thought about playing the guitar, or maybe the piano? Check out our tips for playing an instrument with your cochlear implant. Have a look at what science says about engaging with music with a cochlear implant!
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